The gravitational wave detected by the LIGO observatory acted on planet Earth streching and shrinking it a little bit. I assume that not all of this action was fully elastic and that some energy of the gravitational wave was lost by the passage through planet Earth.

Are there some scientific estimates of how much energy was deposited in planet Earth by this gravitational wave?

Are there estimates how much energy is in total deposited by gravitational waves in planet Earth per year?

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    $\begingroup$ cool question.. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Sep 26, 2016 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think its about 1.21 jigawatts $\endgroup$
    – Dean
    Sep 27, 2016 at 10:35
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    $\begingroup$ This is a good question, but honestly, not easily answered. Unless someone here specifically studies gravitational waves, I think you're going to be hard pressed to find an answer without significant research. That being said, the closest thing I could find that may help is this paper. They discuss the momentum imparted to test particles by gravitational waves. Specifically look at (the daunting) equation 25. With enough work, you could probably work out how to calculate what you want to know. $\endgroup$
    – zephyr
    Sep 28, 2016 at 14:53
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    $\begingroup$ I suppose some geologist or physicist can calculate how much energy is lost in rocks if you compress and decompress the Earth by $10^{-15}$ meters a few times. I would think that most materials are highly elastic at these tiny levels of compression, perhaps immeasurably so. $\endgroup$
    – eshaya
    Oct 7, 2016 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


Don't know about the energy transfer but from a rough assumption we can calculate the energy amount that actually passed through Earth depending on the mass converted and the distance of the event. The energy absorbed by Earth would be far less than that obviously.

The measured event was two black holes merging with a total mass loss of $3 M_{\odot}$. While the distance for that event was calculated to $1.3*10^9 ly$.

With comparing the total energy released (assuming full conversion of mass to gravitational wave energy) over the released area:

$$ E_{Earth} = \pi r_{Earth}^2*\frac{m_{conv}c^2}{4\pi r_{dist}^2} $$ $$ E_{Earth} \approx (6378km)^2*\frac{3M_{\odot}*c^2}{4*(1.3*10^9years*c)^2} $$ $$ E_{Earth} \approx 4.0*10^{13}m^2*\frac{5.7*10^{30}kg}{6.72*10^{33}s^2} $$ $$ E_{Earth} \approx 3.39 * 10^{10}J $$

So the maximum amount of energy passing through earth would have been roughly $34 GJ$. That is about the kinetic energy of three Boeing 747 in flight - or neglectable on a planetary scale.

So even IF the total energy would have been absorbed by Earth, the amount would still have been - not much.


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